“How are you feeling today?” I ask my three-year-old, as he walks into the room after waking up.
“Sick,” he responds in the sweetest, most pathetic little voice, as he lays his head on my shoulder.
We’ve been sick for what feels like forever (in reality, it’s only been five days), and we’re both just so sick of it. I thought we’d be better by now, but we just can’t seem to shake this one. On the first day we were sick, my husband was also sick, so he stayed home from work. Since he rarely takes sick days, having him home made that day almost feel like a mini-vacation. But now I’m just sick of being, well...sick, so today when he left for work I wanted to just sit down and cry. As I sat on the stairs trying to find the energy to face the day, or to even walk up the stairs, I started thinking about two of the other times I’ve felt this way in the last few years—the day my husband went back to work after our babies were born.
I've had two unique and complicated birth/recovery experiences, so my husband’s first day back at work has always been kind of hard for me. When our son was born, I was in the hospital for ten days due to some crazy complications. We finally came home on Saturday night, and he had to go back to work Monday morning. When our angel daughter was born, we had so many supportive family members here to visit that every guest bed, couch, air mattress, blanket, and towel was being used. The last of our house guests left Sunday evening, and (you guessed it) my husband went back to work Monday morning. So, I don’t feel like we’ve ever had that picture-perfect, relaxed, peaceful, family time with a new baby. I have to admit it’s something I’m really looking forward to (and hoping for) when our next baby arrives.
Oh, and did I mention that both of our babies were born by C-section? So having my husband go back to work two weeks after either of their births was especially hard because of my extra physical limitations. This was even more difficult after the birth of our daughter because our son weighed twenty-five pounds...way over the six-pound lifting limit the doctors gave me for the first six weeks of recovery.
Whether you have a normal birth or a C-section, one baby or twins, your first child or your fourth, being left to face life with a newborn, WITHOUT your husband there to help, can be more than a little overwhelming. Especially if you’re lucky enough to have a husband who pulls his own weight (and maybe a little extra during those first few weeks) when it comes to parenting, like the superhero daddy in our home. I mean, there’s a reason our son calls his dad Hulk, and it’s not the color of his skin or his inability to control his temper.
Thankfully, our families and friends have been there for us and stepped in to help after the birth of both of our babies. After our son was born, my mom stayed with us for weeks and taught me how to take care of a baby. And after our daughter was born, she came over every day for those first few weeks after my husband went back to work to literally do the heavy lifting I wasn’t able to do. After our daughter was born, my husband’s family stayed at our house for two weeks, and while they were here, they did dishes, laundry, cooked meals, and entertained our son when I just didn’t have the energy or strength to do so. Friends brought meals, ranging from three-course dinners, with delicious brownies for dessert, to everyone’s favorite 5 buck pizza. So many people stepped in to help and even more offered to help, and even though it was hard for me to accept help from so many people, I’m so glad I did.
So on those days when you have to write “shower” on your to-do list to make sure it actually happens (and especially on those days when you don’t even try to), don’t be afraid to ask for (and accept) help. Oh, and invest in a baby carrier and a swing or bouncer. Trust me, you'll be glad you did! And maybe allow yourself to let your standards slide...just a little bit. Because it really is true (even if it isn’t easy to accept), that the house chores can wait and you can shower tomorrow.